I definitely feel better after a run (with Raisin) – happier and calmer. Now I try to do at least 2 miles in the morning as often as my knees and other commitments will allow. The ‘other commitments’ are an excuse for not running.
There is lots of guidance for depression that recommends exercise. NHS advice, for example, is: “anyone with depression can benefit from doing regular exercise, but it’s especially useful for people with mild depression”. The Mental Health Foundation says “Physical activity is … good for your mental health. Experts believe that exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Regular exercise can also boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep, look and feel better”.
However, recent research seems to be more equivocal. A review of 39 scientific studies that looked at the effect of exercise on depression found:
- Exercise is moderately more effective than no therapy for reducing symptoms of depression.
- Exercise is no more effective than antidepressants for reducing symptoms of depression, although this conclusion is based on a small number of studies.
- Exercise is no more effective than psychological therapies for reducing symptoms of depression, although this conclusion is based on small number of studies.
- The reviewers also note that when only high-quality studies were included, the difference between exercise and no therapy is less conclusive.
- The evidence about whether exercise for depression improves quality of life is inconclusive.
(Source: Mead et al Exercise for depression, Cochrane Collabration 2013)
This talk by John Ratey, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard, on exercise and depression is worth a look.